On hooks, sinks and postmodern storytelling

Started by MichMash, March 21, 2011, 05:59:42 PM

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Hi all,

I'm a GM/DM who recently turned to GURPS... In our playgroup we used to play D&D 3.0 and later 3.5, we tried 4th edition - didn't liked it, turned back to 3.5, tweaked and house-ruled the 3.5 rules until we came up with something that loosely resembled Paizo's pathfinder system - sort off... However, after many years of playing D20, we came to the conclusion that the D20 system looks good at first sight but has a lot of problems and inconsistencies under the hood that eventually kill the game. The sad part is that by the time you figure this out you have already invested a lot of money in rulebooks and rules-expansions that don't help you create a memorable roleplaying-experience in any way. In my humble opinion the math under the hood of the D20 system is horribly flawed. Adjusting d20 rolls with up to 20 points of bonuses or penalties simply doesn't make sense. Clearly probabilities and/or standard deviations weren't ever taken into account when the initial game design was further elaborated and when reading the core books you thus get the impression these concepts don't really matter (the problem is they do). In the end I actively encouraged my players to build and play broken characters because it simply didn't matter (you can't let a bad die decide the outcome of a perfectly roleplayed action). Roleplaying and storytelling therefore became increasingly important at our table but sadly you can't find a lot of help or tricks on how to guide this aspect of the game well. The main problem with storytelling is that you don't know what your players will do... however I have discovered some very efficient techniques that can be used to overcome the difficulties traditionally associated with interactive storytelling.

I technique that I have deployed numerous times with great success is the technique of "playing the bad guys". In one of my campaigns I handed my players character sheets for the mayor villains and forced them to play the bad guys. In one of my campaigns the bad guys where excavating a powerful artifact in a temple filled to the brim with ghouls. The bad guys however knew the good guys where coming to kill them (both played by the same group). This created a situation my players really appreciated. On the one hand this technique allowed me to flesh out the bad guys in a way never thought possible (one of them eventually crossed over). On the other hand this approach also allowed me to give a lot of information about the bad guy's motives without breaking the storytelling illusion. I alternated sessions between the good and the bad guys and in the end my players almost created the encounters autonomously. They blew up corridors and parts of the dungeon in order to create pitfalls and ambushes for the hero's... Because my players both played the good and the bad... the final encounter was truly epic and ended in a way I could never have scripted...

Ok, so my question is... do you guys have other techniques that you have tried and if so... are you willing to share them with the community??


Hi MM,

There's quite a few techniques folks have made for rpgs that produce improvised or non-planned events.   

Quite a few games do something called "Narration Trading" where a player might win a skill roll and be allowed to narrate some facts about the world and results in relation to the roll in questions.  Much like your "Play the bad guys" trick, players often use this to set up problems or reveal a mystery or backstory that no one had prepared or planned.  The Pool by James West (free, here: http://web.archive.org/web/20041112085445/www.randomordercreations.com/thepool.html ) was the first game I knew of that did this.

Is that the kind of thing you're looking for?  Or are you looking for something different?  It's kind of hard to parse what you're asking for.